GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Teens are being trained to take on cyberbullying.

The trend is cruel, anonymous, and it’s growing. A new pilot program that kicked off Wednesday on Long Island hopes to curtail it by bringing victims and bullies together in a peer-to-peer mentoring session.

Nearly half of all teen students in the New York metro area admit to being a victim of cyberbullying.

“There is a lot with like nude photographs,” one student said. The photos get to the entire school. Girls will trust boys over snapchat or text.”

“There is a lot of body shaming especially on girls,” another said.

One in two middle and high schoolers in the region have been targeted on social media, according to a new AT&T survey.

The company that provides internet and mobile is on a statewide campaign to reverse the trend.

“We are really a tech company and we see this, take the onus on ourselves to address this proactively,” Benjamin Roberts explained.

They chose Long Island for their pilot AT&T Upstander Program.

“I didn’t really have a ton of friends and was made fun of for being a band geek,” Sienna College Upstander Ambassador, Marc Badalucco said.

A group of older teen victims from Sienna College Research Institute is now mentoring and training high schoolers starting in Garden City.

They’re being taught to stop being bystanders and start being upstanders.

The peer-to-peer counseling is done in an assembly run entirely by students who advocate for speaking up, interrupting the negative, and communicating the hurt.

“People think they’re being funny, but it’s actually hurtful,” one student said.

“People can hide behind the screen and choose to be anonymous,” another added.

They say it’s easier to work with peers than speak up to their parents.

“If I had a friend to go to probably go there first,” one student said.

Part of the program will go home to the parents.

“Parents should certainly at the very least have their own accounts and be ‘friends’ with their children, be able to see what’s going on. We will provide a lot of resources to parents to walk them through this, but the most important thing — talk to your children,” Marissa Shorenstein said.

Training these so-called ‘upstanders’ in each high school across the state and involving their parents could lead to long-term solutions and change the culture of cyberbullying.


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